Employers sustain return to office push

The majority (91%) of companies surveyed had employees who were hybrid working

Nearly all (98%) companies have continued to encourage employees to return to the office, research by Towergate Health & Protection found.

The survey of 500 HR professionals revealed that just 9% of companies had no hybrid workers, despite 37% of employers having reported that they made some office days mandatory.

It also found that on average, 39% of the workforce were hybrid workers and 27% of employers had more than half their workforce hybrid working.

Employers noted that people aged 31 to 40 were most likely to want to work from home, while over 60s and under 25s were least likely to want to work from home.

Gemma Dale, co-founder of The Work Consultancy, told HR magazine that few employers ask employees to work in the office five days a week.

She said: “From what I am seeing in the market and my discussions with senior HR professionals, those requiring a five-day-a-week office attendance remain in the minority.”

The survey revealed that 37% of employers had made some office days mandatory.

Dale added that employers might enforce mandatory in-office days to ensure employees are attending the office.

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She continued: “Mandating days might indicate that organisations feel that they need an element of structure around their policy, or harbour some concerns that without formal attendance requirements employees may not attend as required or preferred by the organisation.”

Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate, explained that employers’ demand for employees to return to the office depends on the needs of their organisation.

She said: “There probably isn’t a right answer to the optimum amount of home or office working, as it will depend on the organisation and its employees.

“What works for some individuals and companies may not be best for others. But the need to keep communication with employees, to give them a sense of community and of working towards a common goal is greater than ever.”

Working entirely remotely could be detrimental to employees' health, added Clark.

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She continued: “Working from home and even hybrid, if the majority of time is spent at home, is proving to be more detrimental to individuals than perhaps was first thought. 

“The impact on people’s sense of belonging and being part of something is greatly reduced and this can have a significant impact on their mental health.”

Dale explained that despite hybrid working, employees continue to see value in working in the office.

She added: “Most hybrid organisations see the value of in-person work, and most hybrid workers want to come into the office for some of the time. This has been consistent since the demand for hybrid first emerged during the first Covid lockdown.”

The Towergate survey found that employers had also implemented measures such as more on-site socials (41%), free drinks and meals (40%) on-site wellbeing days (38%) or access to in-person counselling (38%) to encourage a return to office working.

Dale noted that employers use these initiatives to encourage employees to make the most of their time in the office.

She explained: “Many of these items, such as on-site socials or events, are commensurate with good hybrid work practice, encouraging people to maximise in-person time for building relationships, networking and wellbeing.  

“Some organisations that I am familiar with which are very committed to hybrid models are doing some of these, and some are now considered good practice.”